He may be finding it harder than he'd expected to defeat brave Ukraine, but in Vladimir Putin's confrontation with NATO, the EU and the rest of us, he's winning, hands down.
All the Unity! flute music you're hearing is exactly the eerie sound you’d expect the "rules-based international order” to make if it were whistling past its own graveyard.
I don’t like being the bearer of bad tidings and I’m ordinarily an unrepentent optimist in the odds I give to any outgunned, put-upon people who rise up from their knees and take the pike to their persecutors. But things do not look good at the moment. You can hear it in the tone of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s voice, and in the very words he is speaking, and for all our own ovations and huzzahs we are united in a quagmire of our own uplifting, heartwarming uselessness.
That’s the case I lay out in my column in the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen today, and I’m not happy that I can’t rejoice along with everyone else in the appearance of President Zelensky, the ragged and uncrowned leader of the free world, on that big screen in Parliament. I do not mean to be cynical, believe me. It’s just that we’ve seen this movie before.
The arc of history is not predestined to bend in the way we would want. There is always, always hope. But we have been here before, very recently. The Russians brought us here in Aleppo, which the Kremlin then reprised with its reconfiguration of Idlib as a human charnel house by precisely the same means and methods that the Russian forces in Ukraine are now reducing the lovely city of Mariupol into a smoking tomb.
I’ve made this observation before. I repeat it again because the catastrophe visited upon Ukraine is still following the same script, so unerringly.
This is the way the world ends. Let the advent of World War III be the spectre you worry yourself about. Suit yourself, but here’s some weird facts about all this that tend not to get into the news media at all. Which is pretty well the main point of this newsletter, and the reason you subscribe (and if you don’t you really should, and take out a paid subscription for the background available only to paying customers, and opt for the annual subscription if you don’t mind, it’s a bargain, please and thanks).
One of those annoying facts: In his address to Parliament, President Zelensky did not ask for Canada’s support in securing a NATO No-Fly-Zone over Ukraine this week. Another: Zelensky did not ask the U.S. Congress for help in securing a NATO No-Fly-Zone this week either. Another: Interim Conservative Party leader Candice Bergen has not proposed a “limited” NATO-enforced NFZ to protect humanitarian corridors in Ukraine, either. Headlines, eh? What a pain.
There are other ways to achieve the same ends, Zelensky has been explaining for a while now. “You know what kind of defense systems we need — S-300 and other similar systems — you know how much depends on the battlefield on their ability to use aircraft,” Zelensky told Congress. “Powerful, strong air aviation to protect our people with freedom, or lend aircraft that can help Ukraine, help Europe.”
Even so, it can’t be said often enough that a NATO No-Fly-Zone would not have to result in a war between nuclear powers in the skies above Ukraine, at least not a war that isn’t already underway anyhow. Vladimir Putin already considers Russia to be at war with every country that’s kicked in those SWIFT banking sanctions we were all about a decade overdue in implementing these past few weeks, because he considers every country in the G7 to be at war with him now, nuclear-armed or not.
He’s said so himself. On February 23, the day before his invasion of Ukraine began, Putin declared that any country adopting sanctions of the SWIFT banking-system type would face consequences they “have never seen,” which does sound a bit armageddonish to my ears. And then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield responded to Putin’s invasion by telling the United Nations Security Council that Russia had pretty much declared war on everybody “Russia’s attack on Ukraine is tantamount to an attack on the U.N. and every member state in the chamber tonight,” she said.
Further to all that, as the National Post’s Tristin Hopper has noticed, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has already made plain that Russia considers those Royal Canadian Air Force airlifts of weaponry to Ukraine to be legitimate targets. Ryabkov has said so himself: “We have warned the U.S. that pumping weapons into Ukraine by a whole range of countries is not just a dangerous path but are actions that turn these convoys into legitimate targets.”
The Post’s Bryan Passifiume counted at least two Canadian C-130 Hercules in over European skies Monday, engaged in a “tactical airlift” of 4,500 M72 rocket launchers, as many as 7,500 hand grenades, and a warehouse load of ammo, body armour, and meals-ready-to-eat (MREs). Those would be Ryabkov’s “legitimate targets.”
I’m not presenting an argument in favour of a NATO NFZ here, by the way. Zelensky has long ago given up on a NATO NFZ to protect Ukraine. He’s also had the hope of Ukraine’s admission to NATO knocked out of him too. But as it turns out, NATO membership might not be the shield against a Russian invasion it’s supposed to be. U.S. President Joe Biden has made it clear that any direct military confrontation with Russia - shooting down a Russian MiG entering a NATO country’s airspace, say - would mean the kickoff to World War III. Which we must not have under any circumstances. Are you with me so far?
This leads us directly to the matter of a kind of congenital unseriousness afflicting the political leadership of the NATO countries, and I’m sorry if this seems mean but this leads straight to Canada, and it will arrive immediately at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his (fifth) new foreign affairs minister, Melanie Joly.
Subscribers to this newsletter will know a hell of a lot more than most people about the long and creepy shadow that Trudeau’s first foreign affairs minister, The Honourable Stephane Dion, Defender of the Oligarchs, has been casting over everything. Subscribers will also be pretty up to date on all the creepy stuff he’s been up to as lately as Canada’s ambassador to Germany and Canada’s “Special Envoy to the European Union and Europe,” too.
Bonus: subscribers will also be well ahead of another foreign-influence grotesquerie involving another prominent Disco era politician, Conservative Party contender Jean Charest, whose cirriculum vitae contains certain troubling blank spots I was looking into in last weekend’s special edition of the newsletter.
The Journal de Montreal is onto it now:
And so is Global News’ Alex Boutilier. It turns out that Charest really was quite a bit less than forthcoming about what he’s been up to all this time. Good work Alex. It’s at least as greasy as the way I put it: Providing services to Huawei's Meng Wanzhou. Guiding Xi Jinping's "national champion" telecom through Canada's national-security roadblocks. Supplying megaphone services for Beijing's disinfo ops. And then he claims it was all done for the high moral purpose of securing the release of Xi Jinping’s hostages, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.
This is a big deal. The guy could end up Canada’s prime minister.
But back to our current government. It should be recalled with some embarrassment that a big part of Stephane Dion’s job while he was in cabinet was to shuttle here and there among the dodgier UN member states in Trudeau’s campaign to secure votes, by any means at hand, to the purpose of Trudeau’s first big vanity project: acquiring a non-voting seat on the UN Security Council. Joly, it turns out, has been assigned a perhaps more realistic role: securing Canada a voting seat on the executive council of Headwaiters Without Borders:
We’re good at convening, apparently.
So worry about the next world war all you want, but while you weren’t noticing, World War III began several years ago. The way the world ends is the bombardment of apartment blocks, hospitals, schools and sheltering places. The all-surrounding siege. The negotiation of humanitarian corridors and then the strafing of civilians as they flee in transport convoys, with “white flags all over them and signs saying ‘children’”, the whole damn thing.
This is how the world is ending in Mariupol, and it was the way the world ended in Aleppo, in Idlib, and in Yarmouk, where the people were reduced to eating cats and dogs and the leaves from the trees. And then that same rough beast slouched from Moscow towards Kharkiv, Kherson and Kyiv, and here we are.
There’s so much more to all this, which I’ll deal with in an upcoming newsletter.
I’ve remarked that journalists make lousy clairvoyants so I won’t be soothsaying here. But the way things are headed, we’re at that part of the movie where the diplomats come in and bicker about the bones and the terms of de-escalation and the normalization and rehabilitation of the monsters that caused all the human suffering in the first place.
There is now what is being described as “peace negotiations” in place that will allow Putin to survive and to keep much of what he’s stolen from the Ukrainian people, and take whatever he feels he can get away with picking up from his wreckage of the country, which is ongoing. This is how it’s done. It’s the sort of “convening” Canada wants to be good at.
If past humiliations are anything to go by, Ukraine’s bravest fighters will now be feeling even less in the way of ““international community” solidarity, and more in the way of pressure to cave. More craven interests will intrude, probably most prominently the U.S. State department’s reputational interest in restoring Barack Obama’s doomed nuclear deal with Khomeinist Iran, which Joe Biden would very much like Putin’s cooperation in accomplishing.
In the crucifxion of Syria, it was “the Astana process.” Moscow and Turkey pretty well ran the thing. It began six years ago. It’s still technically going on, as does the suffering of the Syrian people. Bashar Assad is still in power, 11 years later. The 11th anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian uprising was this week.
Anyway, as I said, journalists make lousy clairvoyants, so enough out of me on that. Journalists are supposed to be good at facts, however, and I have an amusing transgression involving my National Post perch and this very newsletter. It was a glancing look at some weird disinformation ops and (ironically, I realize) I got a thing wrong.
My defence is that when one descends into the subterranean world of Tankie/QAnon undead hybrid zombie sightings, it isn't always easy to tell the groupuscules & "think tanks" apart. What I wrote about the Institute for Peace & Diplomacy was accurate. However, I misidentified the IPD in one paragraph as the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, which has gone ballistic because now its deranged admirers think its the CFPI rather than the IDP that has been mysteriously lavished with Canadian Forces and Department of Natonal Defence grant money, which I do find kind of hilarious. I mean, you can imagine, all those tankies blowing fuses. I know, its wrong to laugh about this. Can’t help it.
Odd though: they accuse me of getting the title of their weird tankie webinar wrong, when in fact I got that bit right. I also find it darkly amusing, and I won’t apologize for this, that the CFPI’s denunciation of me appears in something called “Rabble,” which you could think of as the swamp-creature “left” answer to the rightist cave people over at “Rebel.” Rabble was the homeplace of the notorious Assadist Eva Bartlett, who has lately moved on to the Kremlin's RT propaganda platform to traffic in Putin's more lurid propaganda about Ukraine, and about vaccine mandates. Here’s what the lie-debunkers over at Snopes have to say about Bartlett.
Long story short: In future I will endeavour to work harder in distinguishing the Judean People’s Front from the People’s Front of Judea, and for now, it’s the Feast of Saint Patrick, which I’m sure you will all realize is a holy day of obligation in the proper liturgical calendars, so don’t be thinking about enjoying yourselves. I’ll be out and about.
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It’s 730a.m. and I’m exhausted having read this piece. Average Canadians seem to lack awareness of the gravitas of the events unfolding. Bravo for laying it on the line for us. Unhappy St Patrick’s Day to us all,…
Tragically relieved to hear you state the obvious - "So worry about the next world war all you want, but while you weren’t noticing, World War III began several years ago." To few people understand, or will admit, that we've been under attack on a number of fronts for a long time. Our enemy(s) has carefully chosen an initial weapon from which we have lost all means of defense: Personal Sacrifice. We've had a couple of generations that have grown up without a true exposure to horrors of war, while believing that all world problems should be measured in terms of economic ($$$) terms. Until our leaders (barf) are willing to face that fact, and bring society up to speed, the war will continue. Sadly, I fear, the West has no stomach for sacrifice beyond Hashtag Signalling and will ultimately succumb to powers that care nothing about their own people, never mind ours.